Friday, April 27, 2012

Now What?

What do you do the day after...? We all have something in front of us we are moving toward- a goal, or dream we are working towards.  But what happens when the time for that goal or dream has run its course? "I want to be valedictorian", "I want to get my High School diploma", "I want to get married", I want to be promoted."  Whatever the goal or dream there will come a day when you either reach the peak of that mountain or the window to climb closes and the question is "now what?".  It is like what happens to all who climb Mount Everest as soon as you reach the top you take a couple of pictures then you head back down.  But you know that is not how Kingdom life is intended to be.  While in the Kingdom as a son or daughter of God you will have good and bad days, but the Life we live in Christ is to be a perpetual assent.  We are to be like Abraham who spent his life passing through the land looking for a home whose maker and builder is God.  Everyone knows we can't stay in today when tomorrow comes no matter how good today was.  People look forward to their wedding day, graduation day, birthday... only to find when it gets here it is quickly past and they are left feeling forlorn.  However in the Kingdom, each new day is another few steps down the path with our Father and, while on the outside the steps taking you down some public path like FMJ might seem better, a private walk with our family and our King is just as awesome. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Winning Ugly

In the movie White Men Can’t Jump Woody Harrelson’s character tells Wesley Snipes’ character, “You would rather lose pretty than win ugly.”  I think this is true of most people.  Our pride makes it somewhat easier to be Matt Hiltman and lose an epic match than to be me and win while being called pathetic on national TV.  I know for myself I felt pretty disappointed in how I competed in the $25,000 match.  The question is “why do we feel this way”?  Over the course of my career in steer wrestling, it has happened more than once – I’ve made terrible runs on a great steers and still end up winning, or slammed a bad one and ended up one place out of the money.  Still, it feels better slamming the bad one.  Do we not like winning ugly because we didn’t do our best or is it because we don’t like to look bad?  In other words, is it just pride which inspires such disgust when our results are good but our showing was poor?   While I think our pride partly describes this feeling I think there is something else there as well, something deeper that strikes right at the core of our humanity.  You see when even our worst efforts succeed, the vanity and futility of this world is brought into focus.  After all our best doesn’t always succeed and worst sometimes does.  What can be more futile than that?  This moment brings into clear focus the shallowness- the vanity of our best efforts.  It reminds me of the way Solomon felt in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes when he wrote,  “I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind”.  I think God wants to bring us to this point whether by “losing epically” or by “winning ugly”.  God wants to bring us to the end which makes us ask “is this all there is?” He wants to awaken in all of us a longing for something real, something transcendent, something eternal.  Then maybe by awakening this longing we may look and see Him- The Ultimate Reality, The One Who Transcends Time and Space, The Eternal One.  I pray for all those who read this-- that you would have a sincere and genuine experience with Jesus Christ, that the Father of lights Himself would become known to you.  And I pray that upon meeting Him your life would become the epic, incredible adventure that your heart has longed for.  I pray the God of Heaven would begin to answer all of your questions, would begin to heal every wound, and would begin to fill every void in your life.  I pray all of your deepest hopes and dreams find their ultimate fulfillment in Him and that each one of you realize all of the potential the Father placed on the inside of you.  I pray you have peace in the midst of storms; courage in the midst of fear; humility in the midst of arrogance; and grace in the midst of judgment.  Finally, I am thankful for the awesome opportunity of knowing such amazing men as the ones I met on FMJ and I pray I have in no way hindered their pursuit of the Father.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Our annual Easter steer wrestling clinic was this past weekend and it made me think again that the FMJ cast would make good steer wrestlers.  In fact I tried to get them to come to my clinic.  From the time I was a little boy I have looked forward to the steer wrestling schools.  My dad started teaching one every Easter and every Thanksgiving in 1969.  I took them over myself in 1991,  so for the past 21 years I have been teaching guys of all ages, abilities, and experience how to bulldog.  I have several friends who teach other events in rodeo and we are always amazed at the students who show up wanting to “show” us how well they rope, steer wrestle, ride… I mean they pay us to learn and yet they really just want to show off.  I say teaching steer wrestling has a real advantage, because when a student doesn’t want to change I can just make sure he runs the steers that make it clear he needs change.  Steer wrestling can be incredibly humbling.  For instance, I have run over a million steers on the ground and one kicked me and ran over me just yesterday.  Jousting is humbling in the same way.  You can do everything right and the other guy can do some things wrong - -  he parries, knocks your lance off target and he hits on target leaving you wondering where it all went wrong.  True humility is a good thing.  The problem is that although a humbling experience can produce true humility it can also produce a false humility.  True humility is defined as, "A quality by which a person considering his own defects has a humble opinion of himself and willingly submits himself to God and to others for God's sake." St. Bernard   The word comes from the Latin humilitas, meaning “grounded”, which has at its root humus ,  meaning “earth” or “dirt”.  True and false humility share this beginning- this sense that we are “dirt”. However, this is where the similarities end.  True humility realizes we are a mess, realizes we have shortcomings and failures and then realizes that the only way to overcome these shortcomings and failures is to let God have the access He needs to our lives so He can begin to transform our mess.  False humility, on the other hand, starts by agreeing we are a mess, then settles into an acceptance that the mess is the final state of things. In so doing, it actually exalts itself by saying the mess is the end and nothing and no one can do anyting about it.  False humility says “I am  just stupid, I will always be stupid”. False humility says “ I did wrong but I can’t help it...” it says, “I’m a cheater, but I was made that way”.  You see as Paul writes in 1 Cor 15:48-49 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.
49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.  True humility freely admits our shortcomings but continues to submit those shortcomings to the only one (God) who can do much about them. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Getting Beat Stinks

Getting Beat Stinks

I don’t think anyone likes losing but I’m pretty sure I dislike it more than most. Getting beat on Full Metal Jousting wasn’t any fun.  When I realized I had lost, realized I had failed, my heart sank in my chest.  Of course when your heart is down all sorts of negative thoughts and emotions begin to take hold.  Excuses, complaints, doubts, what-ifs…all of these and more begin to rush in.  While I don’t know if it is possible to keep the thoughts from rushing in, I do know that it is possible to make sure those thoughts don’t hang around.  In a way real defeat only happens when we invite one of those thoughts to take up residence.  When I decide to take an excuse (no matter how valid) and claim it as my own, or I choose to complain about the outcome, or I get stuck in a never-ending parade of what-ifs then I become truly defeated.  So, what do I do?  The first thing that has to happen is I have got to get my heart out of my belly and back into my chest, and the only way I know to do that is to begin to think about God and to let Him know how much I dislike what just happened.  Then, as my thoughts begin to arise I try to honestly assess what took place.  I think about what I did right and where I can improve. (Note: if you try to assess what happened before you get your heart back up you will only see the negative and that is deadly.)  Finally, with my heart back in my chest and an honest assessment of what happened, I can begin to look ahead.  You see, this looking forward is what all of those negative thoughts are trying to avoid.  They want to keep us stuck to this failure in the past to rob us of any future success.  I certainly want to learn from the past but I can’t live there.  So, I take a quick peek in the rear-view mirror, learn what I can, and with God’s help I begin to prepare myself for what lies ahead.
Finally, I want everyone who reads this to know that I like Josh Avery.  He is a gifted, competitive young man with a heart of a champion that cares for his family and friends.  In my book that makes him a good guy.  So, please stop with the Avery bashing.  And keep watching…